Wait, isn’t winter over? In many parts of the world, summer is fast approaching. However, this weekend brings us one last taste of winter with The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan and produced by Joe Roth The Huntsman takes us back into the world of Snow White, now soundly (maybe) ruling over her kingdom after defeating the sorceress Ravenna (Charlize Theron) at the end of Snow White and the Huntsman (2012).
After a very fairytale-esque introduction by the narrator, we go back in time, presumably still within the Kingdom of Tabor, and are introduced to the beginnings of Queen Ravenna. After it becomes clear that Ravenna is in some serious need for marriage counseling, we watch her rise to power and the introduction of her younger sister Freya (Emily Blunt). One secret romance, one jilted lover, and one dead baby later (it’s in the trailer, that’s not spoilery), Freya is transformed into the Frozen Queen and leaves Tabor to rule the North. Robbed of a baby herself, she robs the local villages of their children to groom them into soldiers, under the guise that she is freeing them from the silly notion of love in return for their loyalty. This is where we catch our first glimpse of young Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sarah (Jessica Chastain). Training montages with a bunch of leather-clad children just don’t hold the same impact as say, Rocky punching meat. Nevertheless, we watch as the Hunstmen grow into Queen Freya’s army. Then it is wash, rinse, repeat with the starry-eyed love story gone awry, which leads into deception and the quest for the ultimate goal: the mirror.
The quest for the mirror is admittedly entertaining with the addition of three new dwarf companions that serve as the comedic relief and arguably one of the more dynamic aspects of the film. The scenery and costumes were gorgeous, as was expected. That was a driving factor for seeing the film after the lackluster first edition. Much to the appreciation of viewer’s eardrums, there was significantly less screeching by Ravenna in this prequel-sequel. Any that saw the first might recall that poor Charlize Theron was likely stocking up on the Throat Coat with all the screaming she did. With Winter’s War, there are a few glaring aspects that will likely keep this film buried amongst this weekend’s releases. Even though the title is The Huntsman: Winter’s War, the film seemed oddly lacking a primary character. Hemsworth felt underutilized and placed more as a piece of eye-candy more than a driving piece of the plot. The character of Sarah, while badass to watch in combat, was staunch and cold during their travels. It could be argued that this is the point, that Eric is actually the one out of place. After all, children groomed for war since a young age would likely be a little angry. In addition, it is alleged that Sarah the last seven years in Freya’s dungeons, but is still seemingly sound of mind. Not unexpectedly, this turns out to be one of the film’s transparent plot devices.
Both the main Huntsmen were given some well-crafted fight scenes that displayed their skills gained in Camp Freya all those years. Unfortunately, the character of Eric seems woefully out of practice by the time we move into the “sequel” part of the film. To focus on Freya for a moment, her motivation through the film was supposed to be her broken heart. However, until the very last twenty minutes, Freya’s emotions felt superficial at best almost as if she was struggling with really accepting the idea of casting love out of the world herself. It takes the reappearance of a character-thought-dead to crank up the heat. Or, would another ice pun be more fitting? By the way, the movie lacks no emphasis on the fact that Freya is the Ice Queen, and good luck to any that even suggest they light a fire.
In the end, as the narrator suggests, will love truly conquer all? This is a fairytale, afterall.
Wait on this one. While a visually stunning movie (the creatures alone are wonderful, not to mention the costumes), it will look just as good on your HD television as it does in 4K on the big screen. Lacking a strong main character makes the film feel too wide and unfocused. It feels almost ironic to describe the film in those terms since when one thinks Chris Hemsworth, they think the definition of strong. That is not to say the film is a total flop. There were laughs, and all the feels, but overall it felt like a film that settled for mediocre rather than living up to a star-studded cast and immersive visual effects. At this point, it might be safe to say that Winter is officially over.